November 14, 2012

The Art of Frankenstein : Jack Davis

Get out your wallets, there’s a precious few hours to go on this piece at Heritage Auctions, a rare occasion to own a Jack Davis original!

On this cover job for the October 1962 issue of Sick magazine, The Monster is zapped to life by Dr. Ben Casey, a popular TV hero of the Sixties played by Vince Edwards, as a drooling Igor looks on. The magazine’s bespectacled mascot appears in the background as a collector for an overdue electrical bill. 

Surprisingly, editor Joe Simon rejected this piece, having Davis bring the mascot forward and substituting for Igor. The final, published version is much less effective.

As a cartoonist and illustrator, Jack Davis, born 1924, towers over his field, universally admired, massively influential, often copied, never equaled. Hooking up with EC Comics in 1950, Davis worked for such titles as Tales from the Crypt and The Vault of Horror, but really coming into his own with Mad in 1952, a magazine that better suited his humor and his unique, explosively dynamic style. Soon, Davis would emerge as his generation’s premiere cartoonist with his caricatures of politicians and personalities for Time and TV Guide, record album cover art, ad campaigns and now classic movie posters, notably one for It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.

Jack Davis, I submit, is also one of the great Frankenstein artists! An obvious fan of the classic Frankenstein movies, Davis applied his nervous pen and brushwork to countless appearances of the lanky, knobby-jointed, big-booted Monster, complete with Karloff’s unmistakable mug, featured on magazine covers and monster-themed bubblegum cards, in comic strips and often sighted in Davis’ signature crowd scenes. The Jack Davis Frankenstein was prominent on the cover of Warren’s Creepy No. 1 and the “Fang Mail” logo in Famous Monsters of Filmland. His Frankenstein masterpiece might well be the stupendous “6-foot Frankenstein” poster, advertised for years in the back pages of Famous Monsters.

On his proposed cover for Sick, Davis betrays his love and real knowledge of Frankenstein — and a marked preference for 1939’s Son of Frankenstein — with such details as The Monster’s bulky fur vest and a loose noose around Igor’s throat. Igor, fans will remember, survived a hanging.

A sampling of Jack Davis art on Drew Friedman's blog.

With thanks to George Chastain for the heads up.

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